Randomly I stumbled across this article by Andrea Leadsom. The article raises an interesting quandry. I have no hesitation in agreeing that cyclists should be dealt with fairly. Other riders who flout the law wind me up, particularly those that jump the lights which I see on a daily basis. They certainly should be held accountable if in a worst case scenario they are involved in the death of some one as in the tragic case of Rhiannon Bennett. Yet is the change Leadsom’s proposing going to make the issue go away? I don’t think so.
My concern is that a change of law through a government act won’t necessarily make things any better. The proposal to introduce equal measures to ensure that those motorists and cyclists who cause fatalities or serious injury are dealt with in terms that might be deemed fair to the family and friends of those killed or maimed is flawed. The current policy that dictates the range of sanctions that magistrates can impose against the guilty party are generally deemed weak and leave people dissatisfied, so I am not sure the proposed change is going to solve the problem. A more radical rethink might be needed, but that will undoubtedly have knock on effects on other legal sentences and if you end up locking more people up, the already inflated prison population will just grow bigger. Fundamentally this is a reactionary approach.
A simpler solution and something that would be more proactive would be to engage the police in actually tackling some of the offenders. I suspect that Leadsom’s comments are tinted by her experiences of the London rush hour. I’m convinced that a well coordinated and strategically positioned team of officers with the sole aim of capturing some of the cycling offenders in the big smoke would go some way to raising media publicity that steps are being taken, but such campaigns seldom have a lasting impact and are often perceived as public relation events. A month long campaign in central London is not going to solve issues in the vast suburban zones elsewhere in the UK where people are equally at risk. A solution here is an increased number of police on the beat. More officers patrolling the streets means more chance of capturing people and a greater deterrent to the generally risk adverse proportion of the population.
I suspect that even with an increased presence on the ground, the police have higher priorities in terms of capturing the perpetrators of street crime, robbery, drug dealing and serious public order offences than pulling over cyclists that occasionally ride on pavements. Ultimately accidents happen and that’s the harsh reality of life. If people take risks that put them in the wrong and these actions lead to serious consequences then they should expect to be punished to the full extent of the law. Is Leadsom’s proposal the solution? I’d argue not in itself, so let’s see this properly thought out before any decisions are made.